Stewart Promoted To West Virginia Coach

Mountaineers take interim off Bill Stewart's head coach title

Jan. 3, 2008

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) -Bill Stewart was promoted to head coach of West Virginia on Thursday, hours after leading his Mountaineers to a stunning 48-28 victory over Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl.

He was introduced in the morning at a hotel as he was preparing to head home with his team. He was appointed interim coach in mid-December after Rich Rodriguez bolted for Michigan.

Stewart's five-year contract will pay $800,000 a year with incentives. Rodriguez signed a seven-year deal in August worth almost $2 million a year.

"It truly is a pleasure to serve as the head football coach at West Virginia University," Stewart said. "We have an outstanding group of players already in place and an excellent coaching staff, and I look forward to leading this group of young men and representing the great state of West Virginia."

The 55-year-old coach had the backing of the team, including Pat White. The quarterback began stumping for Stewart on the field after running for 150 yards and throwing for 176 and two touchdowns in the victory over the No. 3 Sooners on Wednesday night.

"He deserves it," White said. "A great man. A great coach. All the players respect him and all the players love him. You couldn't ask for a better man to lead us to victory today."

"He obtained this position the old fashioned way - he earned it," athletic director Ed Pastilong said. "Billy led us to our biggest football victory in the school's history against Oklahoma. And he, his coaching staff and his support staff are outstanding Mountaineers, leading us through a tough time. Our future is bright, and we look forward to even more success under Coach Stewart's leadership."

Fullback Owen Schmitt, who scored on a 57-yard run, called Stewart the "glue" that kept the No. 11 Mountaineers together during a rocky month.

"We're a family," Schmitt said. "That's why we prevailed."

Stewart earned $139,000 this year in his position that also included coaching tight ends and fullbacks and being the special teams coordinator. He came to West Virginia as quarterbacks coach in January 2000 after two seasons as offensive coordinator in the Canadian Football League.



Don Nehlen, the retired Mountaineers coach who hired Stewart, was glad his former assistant landed the job.

"He's just such a good person and the kids love him," Nehlen said. "It's such a good fit with the program."

A message left for Rodriguez early Thursday was not immediately returned.

Stewart, a West Virginian from New Martinsville, was head coach at VMI from 1994-96, compiling an 8-25 record. He also had stints as an assistant at Salem College, North Carolina, Marshall, William & Mary, Navy, Arizona State and Air Force.

Stewart was a captain for Fairmont State, which won the West Virginia Conference championship in 1974. He began his coaching career at Fairmont as a student assistant coach.


Associated Press Writer Kelley Schoonover contributed to this story from Charlston. W.Va.